A familiar face has introduced something new into the upcoming Israeli elections in September. Former prime minister Ehud Barak has formed a new party ahead of those elections and is working to unite the most left-wing Zionist parties behind him.
Barak characterized his new party as a challenge to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and for the moment, that’s what it is. But it is also an effort to unseat Avigdor Liberman from his position as kingmaker. Liberman has thrown the Israeli electoral system into disarray by essentially demanding that Likud, without Netanyahu, and Benny Gantz’s and Yair Lapid’s Blue and White coalition form a unity government. Read more at LobeLog
The Israeli elections are over, and the outcome largely matched the predictions. The Blue and White coalition amassed enough votes to match Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, but only Likud has a path to assembling a governing coalition. Many pundits tried—and largely succeeded—to generate interest in an election that was a nearly foregone conclusion from the start, with only an unlikely combination of long shots offering a sliver of hope that the Benny Gantz-led center-right opposition to Likud could eke out a narrow victory.
This is familiar territory for Netanyahu, for he has faced races just as tight as this one several times in the past. In both 1996 (in a direct election for prime minister) and in 2015, it looked for a time like Netanyahu would not get the most votes. In 2009, he didn’t, but Tzipi Livni, whose Kadima party got the most seats, was unable to cobble together a governing coalition.
This time, Netanyahu may have ended up in a tie with Gantz at 35 seats each, but the right wing and religious parties emerged with a distinct majority. He’ll need to do some wheeling and dealing to appease every party he wants in the government, but it’s a trick he’s pulled off many times before. The new government will, once again, be the most right wing in Israel’s history. But this time, the length of the new government’s tenure will depend more on Netanyahu’s legal troubles than on the political dynamics of the coalition. Read more at LobeLog
Earlier today, Likud Knesset Member, David Bitan, who chairs the governing faction in the Knesset, stated on an Israeli talk show that he would try to find a way to strip the citizenship of Hagai El-Ad , executive director of B’Tselem. Bitan described El-Ad’s testimony to a special session of the United Nations Security Council on Israeli settlements as “explicit breach of trust by an Israeli citizen against the state, and as such he should find himself another citizenship.”
Zehava Gal-On, the Chairwoman of the Meretz party, described Bitan’s comments as “dangerously close to incitement to murder.” That characterization is important considering right wing efforts over the past two years to incite violence against peace and human rights activists in Israel. Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog
The media in Israel is abuzz with the news that Tzipi Livni will bring her Ha’Tnuah party into a joint ticket with the much larger Labor party. Now there is a tandem that can outpoll Likud, they are saying. The Israeli center just might be able to assert itself in this election.
Permit me to throw some cold water on this excitement. Livni, who has been the lone voice in the current government who has actively supported talks with the Palestinians, is doing this because if she doesn’t, there is a very strong possibility that her party will not get enough votes to remain in the Knesset. Labor leader Isaac Herzog, who has very little international experience, ran for the party leadership based on his commitment to resolving the long-standing conflict with the Palestinians. As the prospective Number Two, Livni gives Herzog some credibility in this regard. Read more at LobeLog
Some people are surprised by some of the things Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has said and done. That just shows a real lack of historical perspective on the Israeli political scene.
In the United States and Europe, the Israeli right, epitomized by the Likud Coalition, has always been the “opponent of peace,” while the Labor Party and, later, Kadima were the “pursuers of peace.” This was always a false dichotomy. It would have been somewhat truer to say that supporters of Likud were usually, but far from always, opposed to the two-state solution that Oslo envisioned, while Labor and Kadima supported it. Continue reading
Reaction to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ speech to the UN General Assembly today was swift and sharp. One of the most incisive
Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN general Assembly, 9/26/14
Israeli columnists, Chemi Shalev of Ha’aretz, broke it down very well. He considered Abbas’ speech to be a welcome gift to the Israeli right. And I agree with him. But that’s not really the point.
Abbas has often used the UN podium as a way to be more direct and combative than he usually is regarding Israel, de-emphasizing the “partner for peace” charade and instead being more of an advocate for and leader of the Palestinian cause. But this time, he really turned up the heat. His reference to the attack on Gaza as “genocide” was calculated to play very well in Ramallah and Gaza City, and he willingly sacrificed the rest of the world’s approval. Continue reading
This piece originally appeared at LobeLog.
The Palestinian Authority installed its unity government today. The responses have been as telling as they were expected.
For Palestinians, the development is welcomed news, but it’s being greeted with caution. Palestinians have seen unity proposals collapse before and, while this one has gone further in terms of implementation than any of the preceding efforts, it is still far from certain that this attempt will succeed. The response this elicits from Israel, the US, the EU and other parties will also have a lot to do with whether this unity move will improve the lives of Palestinians in the short-term. Unity has long been the top priority of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, but they’ve been disappointed too many times to rejoice before the reunification is more certain.
Israel, not surprisingly, rejected any cooperation with the new Palestinian government out of hand. Demonstrating once again how weak Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas really is, the one thing they will happily continue is security coordination, which Abbas called a “sacred” and untouchable arrangement. This one piece of leverage Abbas has is admittedly problematic; a breakdown of security in the West Bank is a much greater threat to the Palestinian Authority than to Israel. Still, Abbas did not need to guarantee that he would never play this card. He has, apparently, still not learned that attempts to reassure Israelis fall on deaf ears. Continue reading